11 Oct 2016

Photoproject: 100 visits to Seri Huamark Market (days 11-20)

The following ten days I continued visiting the market mostly in the afternoon, right after work (I can't emphasise enough how helpful having a small camera is in this regard, since you can bring it with you in your regular backpack without needing a separate bag to carry the photography gear) and in the morning during the weekends. The light, therefore, was quite consistent in all my visits, and I started to become familiar with the areas of "light" interest and to have a better understanding of the dynamics between lights and shadows throughout the market.

Day 11, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 11b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 11c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As in my first ten days, I kept on using the Panasonic Leica 15mm everyday, for it seemed to be the right choice due to its small size, bright aperture and wide focal length, all of them factors that played an important role in the project. Furthermore, by using regularly the same lens, I grew used to its peculiarities and slowly the technical aspects of photography became more natural; I knew how far or close I had to place myself from the subjects I wanted to photograph before raising the camera, which saved a lot of time and helped me focus in working the scene more than in controlling the camera or the lens.

Day 12, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 12b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 12c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Even though the market itself is quite small (just three alleys under the asbestos roof), the small adjacent passages that connect to the main road are also crowded with stalls and vendors, so I included those within my "shooting territory", despite not being technically the market, because of the proximity (one would never notice that he has left the indoor area and stepped into the umbrella-roofed alleyways if not being very observant) and because of the homogeneity of all the area in terms of color, smell, taste; in a word, feel.  This way, I expanded a bit the frontiers of the market and I had a bit more space to play with, and I also tried approaching the market from different perspectives, from outside its borders looking in, and also from within looking out to the surrounding neighborhood.

Day 13, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As I went along with my project, and in a very organic way, I realized I broke my first "rule" of this project: posting a picture per day, since a few days I couldn't decide on a single image to post and I ended up posting two images from the same visit. This taught me a lesson: be flexible, and if you considered both images are worth it, go ahead and publish them both, but at the same time I had to impose discipline and make sure that 2 would be the upper limit I would allow or the standards could start to lower and the process would drag much longer than anticipated. So new goal: publish 1 or 2 images per visit (preferably just one) and move ahead to the next day.

Day 14, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 14b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 14c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 14d, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
I said in my previous post that my main motto everyday when I was visiting the market was: "don't try the same things and don't shoot the same scenes that you have already shot before"; however, after two weeks I realized I broke this second promise as well, and I incurred in a repetition, not only in the scene I shot but in the image I picked as the picture of that day (a person coming out of the shadows, crossing small puddles of lights); this made me realize once more that pictures are more important than rules, and rules should only be flexible guidelines, not laws, so I rephrased my motto slightly to go with it forward: "don't repeat the same scene unless you think the new one is better or different enough from the previous one".

Day 15, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 15b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 15c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
One thing changed from the first ten days of the project, though: after two years and a half using my combo of GH3 and GM1, I bought a new camera, the Lumix GX80 or GX85, which seemed to have the best of those two previous models combined (smaller size, more direct controls) plus some very welcome additions, in-body stabilization being the most obvious of all (for the full review of the camera, head to this other post). Now that I was familiar with the lens and the environment, it was time to adjust to a new tool, so the first days I tried a few different configurations of the camera until I settled on the one that I described in the review I mentioned above and, since then, the process became more fluid and automatic.

Day 16, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 16b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 16c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 16d, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
I continued shooting primarily in aperture mode, but I slowly started to use shutter priority as well, because I wanted to introduce movement in my scenes without blurring the subjects. I chose shutter speeds around 1/250th or faster to freeze the movement of the people, which meant a wider aperture was selected by the camera, and that forced me to be more careful with the point of focus, so I learned how to prefocus at the distance I assumed the subjects would walk into and just waited for the scenes to develop on their own.

Day 17, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 17b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 17c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
One technique that somehow became more and more common in my sessions was burst shooting, specially in those occasions in which I knew what I wanted but the fraction of time in which the elements would be aligned to my taste would be very short, thus making it much more difficult to get it with just one shot; this technique increased the number of images I captured everyday, granting me the possibility to get the images that I had envisioned, but at the same time enlarging the missed captures as well, so it became a double-edged weapon that I had to use carefully.

Day 18, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 18b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 18c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 18d, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Finally, after two weeks shooting exclusively in aperture and increasingly in shutter priority modes , I had my first attempts at shooting in fully manual mode, because there were situations in which the other two modes involved too many compromises and I guess the point of this whole project was to practice and learn new things, so I started to give manual a try. I chose the shutter speed and the aperture manually, and I let the camera decide the iso automatically, and this proved very helpful in those scenes where I needed a deep depth of field while freezing motion at the same time.

Day 19, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 19b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 19c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
And so the second chapter of my journey arrived to an end, with some more gaps than the previous one, since I skipped a total of 6 days due to different reasons (mostly work-load related), but I didn't feel I was losing motivation or drive at all, it just happened that I had a few complicated weeks that made my visits more difficult, but I was sure it would all become more regular again in the weeks ahead because those complications had already past. So I ended up my twentieth day in high spirits, as motivated as always and ready to continue the trip.

Day 20, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 20b, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 20c, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 20d, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

24 Sep 2016

Photoproject: 100 visits to Seri Huamark Market (days 1-10)

After thinking carefully, I settled on one project that seemed attractive and feasible, and that fulfilled three criteria that I considered essential:
1) It was interesting for me (essential to keep me dragged and motivated over a long period of time).
2) It was near my neighborhood (helpful to fight against eventual laziness, might that arise at some point).
3) It was clearly defined yet flexible at the same time (which would bring structure while keeping things open to variation at the same time).

Day 01, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 01b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 01c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Deal! I would pay 100 visits to the same place, as often as I could, preferably every day unless I had some serious work-related compromises that would prevent it or if I was out of the city. The place shouldn't be too big so as not to risk dispersion but not too small to keep interest for such a prolonged period of time. I could go any time of the day or night and I would linger there until I had captured at least one image that made me happy, which could range from as little as 15 minutes to more than 1 hour. The idea behind the project was to explore a space that would start being alien and, slowly, make it my own through careful observation and familiarity.

Day 02, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 02b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 02c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
One place that fulfilled all those conditions was Seri Huamark Market (ตลาดโต้รุ่งเสรีหัวหมาก), a small fresh market in my neighborhood that I had past by countless times in the last six years but that I had never really paid any attention to, a place that represents the area where I live and my own life these past 6 years as good as any other place could. Done! That would be my hunting ground and the place where I would embark upon to regain my faded passion. 100 visits to Seri Huamark Market was therefore born and I was excited to start my voyage.

Day 03, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 03b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The number of days had no special meaning, it was just a number I considered to be significant enough to give me time to discover all the nooks and crannies of the market and to help me make it part of myself; the fact of the number being round would besides bring frame and a clear closure to the project, which would also be helpful. I paired the small GM1 with the PanaLeica 15mm, a combo that seemed to be the perfect match for this kind of street photography, and I was all set to start.

Day 04, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The firs days I visited the market in the afternoon, on my way back home after work, and I took my time to wander around to get a feel for it, for its dimensions, its flow, its colors, smells and people. Everything was new so I had no expectations or preconceptions of what I might find and capture whatsoever, I just walked slowly around the narrow aisles, smiling to the vendors, who where quite surprised to see a westerner with a camera in their realm and that, at first, showed not much interest in me. They kept doing their things as I walked past, though some of them seemed a bit uncomfortable with my presence around, even rejecting me when I approached them. In those instances I just smiled, and kept walking.

Day 05, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05e, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
For the most part, I kept my camera in aperture priority, as I focused mainly in static subjects; I usually shot at f4 to f5.6 because the interior of the market could be quite dark and I feared raising the ISO too much, but that increased the risk of out of focus areas in the images, so I slowly learnt how to compromise the different settings and I ended up working with Auto ISO and raising its limit to 6400, which gave me more leeway to adjust the other parameters and keep everything in focus.

Day 06, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 06b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The outdoor areas of the market were, however, much brighter, and this huge difference in brightness was a big challenge to the dynamic range of the camera, something that forced me to be always very careful with my backgrounds, my exposure and my composition, to avoid areas of harsh contrast. I had some interesting indoor images ruined by burned highlights in the outdoor backgrounds, which has taught me to be more careful with my composition afterwards, and adjust my perspective accordingly. In those instances were high dynamic range was unavoidable, I learnt to underexpose the image, as noise is always preferable to washed out whites.

Day 07, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 07b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As the days passed, I had only one motto in my mind: trying not to shoot the same scene twice. I forced myself to look for different subjects or different approaches, and this kept things fresh and interesting. The market was still new to me, so I never ran out of things to shoot and corners to discover, and, despite its humble size, every day seemed totally different from the previous ones, therefore I never fell into repetition during these first days. It remains to be seen if I can keep finding new angles and subjects in the subsequent 90 days!

Day 08, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
These firs days were more about seeing than shooting, so I was not worried about the number of images I captured; I felt relaxed and excited, so I usually went back home with 20 to 100 images. Most of the days I knew straightaway what image would be the selected one, for it had been one of those eye-opening moments that happen unexpectedly, but other days I was not quite sure, and I would have to check the captures later in the computer to select the best one. But I decided that I would not check the pictures the same day of capture, I wanted to give them some room to breathe and I wanted to keep on shooting without thinking too much about my previous images, so I would sort out my photos only after every ten days were completed.

Day 09, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 09b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As for my discipline, I didn't miss a single day, so it was an encouraging beginning: I had not resorted to self-excuses or fallen into boredom or repetition at all, I had kept my plan and, in return, I had started to discover a place that seemed to offer plenty of opportunities. I was happy, I was motivated, I was eager to continue and see where the road would lead me, so I ended up the first 10 days in high spirits and willing to continue without interruption.

Day 10, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10e, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm